Tuesday, September 27, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Heavens May Fall; Allen Eskens

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book I'm reading or will be reading soon.  (I really enjoyed the first two books by this author,  The Life We Bury and The Guise of Another.)

The Heavens May Fall; Allen Eskens
Seventh Street Books - 2016

Part 1
The Death

Chapter 1

"The courtroom had fallen quiet, the judge's words lost behind a low hum that droned in Max Rupert's ears.  Max reached for his water glass, a waxy paper cup on the rail of the witness stand.  It lifted empty and light.  He didn't remember drinking the last of his water.  He paused, the empty cup halfway to his lips, unsure what to do next. Pretend to take a drink?  Put the cup back down on the rail?

What do you think? Keep reading or probably pass?

Feel free to join in by posting a link to you First Paragraph Intro below.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bridge of Sighs; Richard Russo

Bridge of Sighs; Richard Russo
Knopf - 2007

I've been on a Richard Russo kick over the summer beginning with Nobody's Fool, then Everybody's Fooland now Bridge of Sighs (my favorite).  No one captures small town life quite like Russo.

In Bridge of Sighs we get a feel for life in the fictional town of Thomaston, NY, a factory town somewhere in upstate New York.  It's a town where for many years the local tannery routinely dumped chemicals into the nearby stream.  Now the townspeople are seeing the effects of these chemicals with and increase of cancer cases and deaths.

The story is told from the perspective of Lou C. (Lucy) Lynch, a man now in his 60's as he chronicles the life of his family, beginning with his father Big Lou, a milkman turned store owner of the local Ikey Lubins, which now Lou C and his wife Sarah have expended to several stores. We also get to know the Berg and Marconi families and how their lives connected with the Lynch family.

The story spans a period of some 50 years and is over 600 pages.  It's a family saga that is well written with wonderful and memorable characters. The story has plenty of plot points, both beautiful  moments and sometimes disturbing ones. There's racism, discrimination, domestic and emotional abuse and adultery. The issues felt real and characters felt very human. 

Despite a few uncomfortable issues touched upon, Bridge of Sighs had an overall uplifting feel about it.  It left me with a good feeling.  Be sure to try this one if you haven't already read it.

I have (3) more unread Russo novels on my shelves but, those will have to wait until 2017.

4/5 stars
(my shelves)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Another Brooklyn; Jacqueline Woodson

Another Brooklyn; Jacqueline Woodson
Harper Collins & Blackstone Audio - 2016

August is now a woman in her 30's recalling an earlier time (1973) when she moved with her father and younger brother to Brooklyn from Tennessee, leaving her mother behind for reasons she did not understand at the time.  As August and her brother now prepare to bury their father,  20 plus years later we learn what life was like for her and her close friends growing up in a less than ideal part of Brooklyn in the 1970s.

As she reflects back on her past we see how a difficult move was made more tolerable once she makes new friends (Angela, Gigi and Sylvia).  Sadly, the girls see and experience things that most parents try shelter their daughters from for as long as possible as they navigate from adolescence to young adulthood. 

As the story moves back and forth in time, theres's a dreamlike feel that was hard to shake.  The author does a wonderful job capturing both childhood innocence as well as the harsh realities and dangers faced by young girls in this particular part of Brooklyn in the 1970s.  For such a short novel (novella) serious issues such as -- race, poverty, addiction and mental illness surface. The audio book was read by Robin Miles who did an excellent job.

4/5 stars
(library audio)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Wasp Factory; Iain Banks

The Wasp Factory; Iain Banks
Simon & Schuster - 1998

OMG what a disturbing and twisted story. It took me well over a week to read this book and it's just over 200 pages.

The story takes place on a small remote island off the coast of Scotland and it's told from the POV of a 16 year old psychopath named Frank Cauldhame. Frank had murdered 3 people by the age of 9 -- his younger brother and 2 young cousins and, he gets away with it as well.

Frank's father Angus is a brilliant oddball but, at least initially, he seems harmless.  He home schools Frank.  There is also older brother Eric who was locked up in an insane asylum but, as the story opens he had just escaped. It's a mystery as to why Eric had been confined there.

The Wasp Factory is definitely a disturbing, and yet at times, comical story.  There are some pretty gruesome scenes played out which included the torture of animals (sniff). Frank, despite the fact he killed 3 children, at times seemed like the most normal character once everything is finally revealed in the end.

At times I felt like this might be a DNF for me but, in the end I was glad I saw how this bizarre story played out.

4/5 stars
(personal copy)